How to Save a Blurry Photo in Photoshop

There’s nothing so frustrating as shooting what you think is the perfect photo, only to find when you bring it up in Photoshop that parts of it are blurry. You may think that all you can do is delete the image and hope that you manage to get another opportunity for the shot. Thankfully, there are ways you can save a photo using Photoshop. This article can show you how.

Photoshop Can’t Invent Detail

A quick caveat before we get into things; Photoshop can’t invent detail. If you lose focus when taking it, Photoshop can’t un-blur it. But that doesn’t mean you can’t save the picture (unless it’s totally out of focus). You just need to apply a few tricks:

Fake It

If you can’t fix it, fake it. This applies particularly when an object in the foreground is the main focus, yet your desired subject is slightly out of focus. The way to fix this requires a few steps:

  • Make a background copy of the Layer.
  • Convert it to a smart filter
  • Apply some smart sharpening; increase the Amount to 500 and the Radius and Reduce Noise to 0.
  • Start increasing the Radius, ignoring the noise. Find the sweet spot where the features you want to sharpen are sharper.
  • Reduce the noise until you’re happy with the results.
  • Select the Smart Filter’s Mask and invert it, making everything black.
  • Take a brush and decrease the flow to ~10-15%. Decrease the brush size.
  • Start painting the features which require detail, slowly and gradually. Make sure the foreground colour is white. Toggle between black and white to reduce the noise.
  • Toggle back to the Reduce Noise option of the Smart Filter.
  • Bear in mind that this isn’t a suitable way of creating an image for print or display. There will be far too much noise noticeable.

Hide the Faults

Once you’ve done your best to bring out the detail and features of the blurred area, you’ll need to cover your tracks somewhat. Here’s how to do so:

  • Create a merged visible layer. This will create a layer showing everything you’ve worked on so far.
  • Convert it to a smart object.
  • Select Filter > Blur Gallery > Iris Blur. This creates an area of clarity that blurs outward. You can control the size of the area and how much it blurs.
  • Play with the sliders to create a small area of blur around your edits and reduce the amount of blur. You can always change these values later.
  • Apply a Level adjustment layer. From here, make the lights and the darks a little darker.
  • Select the Mask and choose a 100% flow brush.
  • Dab on the area that you want to highlight and adjust the size of the brush.
  • Select Mask Properties and adjust the feathering gradually to match that of the image.
  • Readjust the properties of the Levels layer to match you Mask.
  • Apply filters as necessary.

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